I’m talking about literally changing the way you think about money: the things you tell yourself and the words you use. And by doing so, changing your actions.
Action follows thought
Bear with me, because this isn’t a bunch of mumbo jumbo. What I’m about to say has its roots in cognitive behavioral therapy. It’s this: action follows thought, and your thoughts are based on your beliefs.
Or as Mahatma Gandhi said:
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
Change one thing, and you change everything.
Change your thoughts
But changing a long standing belief — especially one that’s become a habit or that you may not even be consciously aware of — is hard.
Why? Because you’re constantly telling yourself otherwise, even when you actively want to change. And you believe what you’re told over and over again, even if you’re the one doing the telling.
For example, see how this statement sits with you.
“You can pay cash for a house.”
What was your first thought on reading that? Was it something like “I could never do that” or “Yeah right. Maybe if I won the lottery”? Well, you almost certainly can pay cash for a house if you want to. Yes, you. Despite all the reasons you’re thinking of right now why that statement couldn’t possibly apply to you.
You just don’t believe that it’s a possibility.
Our beliefs control our thoughts, which control our actions, which control our results.
Break that chain anywhere, and you get different results.
Think your way out of debt
As you probably know, the best place to break a chain is its weakest link. In this case, the easiest thing to change is the stuff you’re telling yourself.
That sentence I wrote before? (“Our beliefs control our thoughts, which control our actions, which control our results.”) It could also be written like this:
Our thoughts control our beliefs, which control our actions, which control our results.
Don’t believe me? Let me tell you a story.
Me, a few years ago
I used to have social anxiety. If a clerk in a store asked if they could help me, I’d mumble something and leave in a hurry, mortified that they were watching me. If someone at a restaurant started to remember my order, I’d quit going there because surely they were judging me for what I was eating. I wouldn’t say hi to the people at work. It’d take me an hour or more (sometimes days!) to work myself up to making a phone call. I was also constantly telling myself things like “Oh my god, what’s the matter with you? Are you stupid?”. (Only in not such “nice” words…)
The thing is, I wanted to be able to go shopping, eat out, and interact with folks, and call people. I wanted to feel good about myself. I just didn’t believe it was possible. After all, decades of experience had shown me that it wasn’t. I was wrong, of course.
I went to therapy, and everything changed. I’m finally the real me. The just-fine-me who is now happy when the server says “You want the usual?” and who jokes around instead of cringing. The me who got promotions and raises at work. The me who slapped my picture on my blogs. The me who doesn’t believe any of that old crap any longer. It all started with changing the way I talk to myself, and then sticking with it.
Why it matters
Changing the way I thought about things also worked for getting out of debt. In fact it was critical to finally becoming debt free.
Chew on that a little. The next post will talk about how to change your thoughts and think your way out of debt.